MLS on NBC Sports Network: Philadelphia Union hosts Colorado

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Philadelphia will stand sentinel over that wonderful home record of two seasons at PPL Park in suburban Chester, taking on Colorado this afternoon on NBC Sports Network. (4 p.m., ET).

Here are five quick stories to follow as Arlo White and Kyle Martino provide the sounds from Major League Soccer’s most picturesque stadium setting.

  • Rapids striker Conor Casey remains unavailable, still recovering from last year’s Achilles tear. That means Omar Cummings must work double duty, although the Jamaican international never quite seems the same without Casey’s brute force to balance his speed. On the other hand, Jaime Castrillon had a sharp debut as the offensive focal point of coach Oscar Pareja’s 4-3-3. Keep an eye on him.
  • Union boss Peter Nowak has never been afraid to roll out a young squad. The Union roster’s average age is a shade over 23 years old. That’s also about the average age of his D.C. United roster back in the 2004 MLS Championship season. (That assembly was slightly skewed by Freddy Adu, who was 15 at the time.) Adu is 22 now, practically among the old men on Nowak’s budding squad.
  • Speaking of young: Union first-year starting goalkeeper Zac MacMath is just 20. He was fine in last week’s rainy loss to Portland, that one notorious moment as the exception.  So, we’ll see how he responds after a week to think about it. Left back Porfirio Lopez definitely has something to prove after being turned inside-out Monday by Portland’s Kalif Alhassan. (More on that and other Brotherly matters are here.)
  • I talked to Adu during the preseason. We talked about Nowak’s tough love and about their close relationship – they’ve been together a lot of years now two stints. He also told me he loves the classic No. 10 role, pulling the offensive strings while operating behind a striker. But that position doesn’t really exist in Nowak’s system, so Adu operates from closer to the wings. He says he’s OK with it, and I believe him. Still, not everyone believes that’s Adu’s ideal deployment.
  • The Union’s two-year record at home really is something, having lost just four times in 32 outings – truly excellent for a club just now in its third year of existence. But the Union are coming off a toughie. And Colorado is on the short list of teams having experienced success at PPL, with a draw in 2010 and a win in Chester last year. The Rapids chances improve if captain Pablo Mastroeni can play (it looks good right now) after last week’s concerning head injury. Either way, Rapids midfield rock (and usual Mastroeni partner) Jeff Larentowicz will be on the job.